Placement Stories: Polina Bulat at Mosaico Danza (Turin, Italy)

Polina Bulat, a Berlin-based dance producer and manager from Ukraine, and alumna of Atelier New York 2024, completed her placement at the Mosaico Danza Interplay Festival in Turin, Italy, in June 2024. Read more about her experience below:

I am writing this text near midnight in Turin, or more precisely in its outskirts, at the family home of Natalia Casorati, located on a hillside. Surrounding me are a garden and a forest, with the city visible below and the Alps beyond.

A downpour rages outside. Natalia mentions that until recently, it rained almost every day here (and she only had her first ice cream of the season two days ago!). I’ve been quite lucky – during my stay in Turin, it only rained on my last day, and in just five days, I managed to have three ice creams, surpassing Natalia.

In my headphones, I’m listening to "Wake" by Nora Lilith, a self-taught singer and musician from Austin, USA, who, like me in 2022, moved to Berlin. One of the previous nights in Turin, Spotify suggested her to me, and I was captivated by her smooth yet touchingly broken sound, somewhat naive but irresistibly and gently immersive. There’s almost no information about Nora online, and she has few followers on Instagram. Still, I feel a connection and draw parallels: she has been singing since childhood, recently started learning to write and record music independently, reinventing her vision and approach to vocals, and just signed her first contract with a label. I believe many festival producers, especially those who start from scratch, can relate: to get started, you need to learn to do almost everything yourself.

This is how Natalia Casorati began. This year marks the 24th anniversary of her international dance festival INTERPLAY. During one of our shared dinners, Natalia, a former dancer, recounted how she started: she organized her first dance performance in the windows of a local gallery, which the audience could watch from the street. Step by step, her festival now features 25 dance companies from around the world. Parallel to this, she runs the professional network Mosaico Danza, which advocates for dance art in Italy. However, engaging the urban space remains a vital part of the festival program. I witnessed two such projects – Stefania Tansini’s performance at the MAO Museum of Oriental Art and GRUPPO NANOU’s show in a large park of a former psychiatric clinic, now partly occupied by the Lavanderia a Vapore theater and studios.

I suspect I’m living not in a city, despite its stone center, a former royal residence, but in a garden. Greenery surrounds and fills my space on all sensory levels. The scents of greenery and flowers are everywhere: in the garden around Natalia’s house, where the festival office is also located, and throughout the city – jasmine, roses, hydrangeas, and many unknown plants are in bloom. The trees resemble huge green spheres in which one could live. I stop in the streets to bury my face in open blossoms, caress petals and leaves with my fingers, and even eat mulberries – a tree I hadn’t encountered since leaving Ukraine. This deeply touching moment connects me to my childhood when I spent hours sitting on mulberry branches, eating the fruits until my mouth and hands were stained black.

I came to INTERPLAY and Natalia’s welcoming home through the Placement program of the Festival Academy: I am a graduate of their Atelier for festival managers from the winter of 2024. Among the graduates of a previous session is also Natalia’s daughter, Francesca, who has been actively helping with the festival this year. She suggested involving INTERPLAY in the program, and after submitting my application, here I am, observing the daily festival operations and assisting where I can, immersing myself in the melodies of the Italian language, which I barely understand but eagerly listen to for the sensory pleasure.

The festival lasts almost a month. I arrived for its final part, accompanied by my closest colleagues: choreographer Maciej Kuzminski and dancer Daria Koval, whose performance is in the program. Being able to cross paths even for a day amidst our endless travels is a great fortune, and this meeting makes my stay with the festival family even warmer.

INTERPLAY is indeed a family. Not only because nearly the entire Casorati family is involved in preparing for the festival, but also due to the highly personalized relationships with the audience and partners. The festival team, along with the founder, is constantly on site, engaging in live communication with guests before performances. Natalia herself gives the opening remarks before performances and gently coordinates the audience, who feel like guests in her home. After the shows, she cares for the artists – long dinners and conversations at the communal table continue well past midnight, but no one neglects the time together despite the busy schedule and the need to return to office work every morning, often without weekends: strong and aromatic coffee, brewed in a large moca for everyone in the office, helps.

As I write this, Natalia’s cat, Zeus, bursts into my bedroom through the window and immediately demands attention. We haven’t interacted all week, unlike the large white dog Neve, who loves being petted all over. It’s funny but pleasant that he’s come to say goodbye in this way. During the festival, I barely saw Turin, but I learned something about it on a sensory level through observations and experiences. When your hair is always perfectly voluminous, and your skin is soft due to the humidity, when bread is casually scattered on the tablecloth; when a beautiful city theater is modestly nestled among residential buildings, when you exchange heart gestures with unknown girls at the traffic lights just for fun; when the first bartender you meet, a native Turinese, tells you about his friends in Ukraine, how he was with them on the day the war started, and how he traveled back home through the Moldovan border; when the family history spans several generations of artists, and walls covered with paintings are as commonplace as bread.

I had been to Turin before, as well as other cities and towns in Italy, but living with INTERPLAY etched it into my memory through smells, touches, sounds, associations, and a small but meaningful connection with the local dance community and its places of strength. INTERPLAY itself is, if not a place, then a community of strength, fueled by a passion for its work, continually expanding and developing: like the gradual inclusion of workshops into the program or the initiative to build an artistic residency. Although all this requires great and consistent effort, I am fascinated by how the festival team accomplishes it in an effortless Turinese manner.